THE SALESMAN (Iran/France 2016) ****

the_salesman_poster.jpgDirector: Asghar Farhadi
Writer: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, Babak Karimi

Review by Gilbert Seah

Winner of the Best Script and Best Actor (Shahab Hosseini) prizes at 2016 Cannes,THE SALESMAN, the third film from the Iranian director of UNE SEPARATION and LE PASSE once again deals with domestic problems of a husband and wife in a suspense whodunit Hitchcockian setting.
Rana (Tararne Alidoosti) and her high-school teacher husband Emad (Hosseini) have moved quickly into their new apartment after an earthquake deemed their last place too dangerous to live. At the new place, just before going into the shower, Rana buzzes someone up thinking the person to be her husband. A stranger turns up in the bedroom. Rana ends up in hospital with bruises. The husband seeks revenge. In whodunit style, he traces keys and cellphone to the person responsible. The last 20 minutes has Emad confronting the perpetuator with unexpected results.

THE SALESMAN of the film title refers to the Pulitzer Wining 1949 Arthur Miller play, DEATH OF A SALESMAN. Emad is in a current production of the play with him playing the main character of the salesman, Willy with Rana playing the wife. There are of course parallels between the play and Emad’s real life. Both Willy and Emad seek the perfect life (as Willy in Miller’s play searches the American Dream), but fate hands out a different deck of cards. When Emad faces the man who committed the crime, a hidden crisis in his marriage relationship resurfaces – and he has to deal with it.

Unlike Farhadi’s other two films, THE SALESMAN moves at a slower pace and has more hidden agenda. Things are not what they seem. For one, the wife is a bundle of contradictions. She wants her husband to spend more time at home, but she wants personal solitude. When the husband finds the culprit, she wants the husband to let him go.

Farhadi also deals out slices of Iranian life in his film. The audience gets to see how the people live in Tehran where the story is set. The evacuation at the film’s start show how Iranians live. They take care of their disabled family members. The perpetuator’s family that show up at the end of the film depict the strong bond of Iranian family culture. One segment in Emad’s classroom reflects what the school system is like – and humorously. In one funny scene, a fat student quizzes Emad how possible it is in a literature text for a man to turn into a cow, only to be commented by a fellow pupil if he had recently looked into the mirror.

What is also immediately noticeable about Farhadi’s filming is his camera placement. At the film’s start, the stationary camera captures effectively the mayhem of the building evacuation. From the camera behind a window, a bulldozer can be seen. The climax of the film has the camera placed so that the characters move into the frame where the entire action then takes place.

At the end of the film,when the audience sits back to consider the consequences of the incidents that have unfolded on screen, one realizes that the impact is on the individual. The culprit is not sent to jail and the husband has not punished the wife’s attacker. The film leaves an open ending on how the revelation of events affect each character in the story. And his is what makes Farhadi’s film stand out.

THE SALESMAN has been nominated for the Academy award for Best Foreign Language Film. Director Farhadi has announced that he will not attend the ceremonies because of President’s Trump controversial travel ban.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VcfinMasfw

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Film Review: SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS (South Africa 2016) ***

shepherds_and_butches.jpgDirected by Oliver Schmitz

Writers: Chris Marnewick (novel), Brian Cox (adaptation)
Stars: Andrea Riseborough, Steve Coogan, Garion Dowds

Review by Gilbert Seah

Director Olive Schmitz has made quite a name for himself with his first feature MAPANTSULA (1988) debuting at Cannes in Un Certain regard and again with his LIFE, ABOVE ALL (2010) being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. His latest is again a film which deals with a controversial topic, inspired by true events, the trial of a prison guard who shot seven black men dead.

The film is set during the height of apartheid in South Africa. The racial prejudice is obviously expected to be an effect on the story. A young white prison guard, Leon Labuschagne (Garion Dowds) embarks on a seemingly motiveless shooting spree that leaves seven black men dead., one night during a traffic incident. But this is obviously something deeper than road rage. A British-born lawyer, Johan Webber (Steve Coogan), assigned to his case sets out to prove his actions were a direct result of psychological trauma from his volatile work environment.

It is an odd choice to cast Steve Coogan in the role of a concerned lawyer. His best roles have been in comedy as in THE TRIP and THE TRIP TO ITALY as well as in ALAN PARTRIDGE. Even in his serious roles like PHILOMENA, he injects a sarcastic, biting humour that makes him an actor a joy to watch. In this film, Coogan is total serious. He is seen smoking a cigarette during the planning of his case, but never gain in any other seen. Actor Garion Dowds was probably chosen for his role as the accused because of his innocent and small stature, showing his character a vulnerable and easily influenced one.

One expects to be disturbed when watching a film like SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS that deals with the death penalty. There is plenty in the film to shock the audience. These are mainly in the flashbacks and recalling of events by guard Leon Labuschagne. The description of a hanging with the rope not of correct length (the dying man suffering the pain of strangulation with a broken neck in consciousness for a full 15 minutes) and the actual enactment during a flashback are clearly not for the faint-hearted. The scenes showing the sights of the faeces and urine surrounding the dead hung bodies are also plain nasty. Director Schmitz also creates the uneasiness of the period of apartheid throughout the film.

Leon Labuschagne was a prefect at school and attended church regularly. He was a father with a wife and daughter but now he stands trial for the murder of 7 people. The most intriguing question the film is to answer is what brought the change to this man, Leon. Director Schmitz brings his film to a satisfying conclusion with the verdict of the court case.
The film’s most absorbing parts still lie during the courtroom drama. Andrea Riseborough is marvellous as the prosecutor Kathleen Murray questioning Leon to breakdown.

The film was shot entirely in Cape Town, South Africa in English and Afrikaans. Why the film is called SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS is clear during a crucial scene at the end of the film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGdGrwd27Yk
 

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Happy Birthday: Christian Bale

WILDsound Writing and Film Festival Review

christianbale.jpgChristian Bale

Born: January 30, 1974 in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK

[on his transformation into Patrick Bateman for American Psycho (2000)] The character is so vain and obsessed with his looks. While the psychology of the character was something that I could perform, you can’t fake the physicality. Being English, I tend to enjoy going down to the pub far more than going to the gym, so it was very unnatural for me. I just had to convince myself that I loved it, which was the most difficult thing about playing this part. Working out is incredibly boring. I swear it’s true that the bigger your muscles get, the fewer brain cells you have. I found I had to stop thinking when I was in the gym because if I thought about it, I’d realize how ridiculous it was that I was pumping iron when I could’ve been out having…

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Happy Birthday: Wilmer Valderrama

WILDsound Writing and Film Festival Review

wilmervalderrama.jpgWilmer Valderrama

Born: January 30, 1980 in Miami, Florida, USA

I play opposite Beverly D’Angelo, and that was definitely a great time.
I got hit twice in the face, and that was not fun.
Honestly, I’ve been very blessed. Yes, I am cursed with this gift.
Because I had an accent, people had this impression that I was dumb.

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SUBMIT your TV PILOT or TV SPEC Script
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Happy Birthday: Phil Collins

WILDsound Writing and Film Festival Review

philcollins.jpgPhil Collins

Born: January 30, 1951 in Chiswick, London, England, UK

Married to: Orianne Collins (24 July 1999 – 17 August 2008) (divorced) (2 children)
Jill Tavelman (4 August 1984 – 5 December 1996) (divorced) (1 child)
Andrea Collins (27 September 1975 – 2 February 1980) (divorced) (2 children)

[about his Academy Award] Ever since I can remember, I’ve watched the Oscar shows. Watching all those great actors, writers and directors receiving the Holy Grail. I never thought in a million years that I’d get a nomination. As years rolled by I was lucky enough to be included a couple of times. When my third time came with Tarzan (1999), I truly didn’t believe it would be me. When Cher opened the envelope and said “Ph…” you could have knocked me down with a feather. It really was, and is, an incredible feeling. Of all the awards I’ve been fortunate…

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Happy Birthday: Olivia Colman

WILDsound Writing and Film Festival Review

oliviacolman.jpgOlivia Colman

Born: January 30, 1974 in Norwich, Norfolk, England, UK

[on The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder in Angel Lane (2013)] I had already agreed to do this before I’d even read the script, because Paddy [Paddy Considine] was in it. It was weird acting with him because, on Tyrannosaur (2011), he was the best director in the world. On this, when the director gave me notes, I’d keep checking Paddy’s eyes to see if everything was all right, and he’d have to tell me, “I’m not the director!”

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Happy Birthday: Gene Hackman

WILDsound Writing and Film Festival Review

genehackman.jpgGene Hackman

Born: January 30, 1930 in San Bernardino, California, USA

Married to: Betsy Arakawa (December 1991 – present)
Fay Maltese (1 January 1956 – 1986) (divorced) (3 children)

I came to New York when I was 25, and I worked at Howard Johnson’s in Times Square, where I did the door in this completely silly uniform. Before that, I had been a student at the Pasadena Playhouse, where I had been awarded the least-likely-to-succeed prize, along with my pal Dustin Hoffman, which was a big reason we set off for New York together. Out of nowhere, this teacher I totally despised at the Pasadena Playhouse suddenly walked by HoJo’s and came right up into my face and shouted, “See, Hackman, I told you that you would never amount to anything!” I felt one inch tall.

[on seeing Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and becoming determined to…

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